The Man Who Came Uptown

The Man Who Came Uptown
The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos

Manga Monday

Manga Monday
Manga Monday

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Man Who Came Uptown- by George Pelecanos- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:


Michael Hudson spends the long days in prison devouring books given to him by the prison's librarian, a young woman named Anna who develops a soft spot for her best student. Anna keeps passing Michael books until one day he disappears, suddenly released after a private detective manipulated a witness in Michael's trial. 
Outside, Michael encounters a Washington, D.C. that has changed a lot during his time locked up. Once shady storefronts are now trendy beer gardens and flower shops. But what hasn't changed is the hard choice between the temptation of crime and doing what's right. Trying to balance his new job, his love of reading, and the debt he owes to the man who got him released, Michael struggles to figure out his place in this new world before he loses control.
Smart and fast-paced, The Man Who Came Uptown brings Washington, D.C. to life in a high-stakes story of tough choices.

READ AN EXCERPT:




MY REVIEW:

The Man Who Came UptownThe Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos is a 2018 Mulholland publication.

This is the first book by George Pelecanos, I’ve read in many years. I have a handful of his novels on my shelves, both print and digital, I needed to read first, but this one was so highly recommended to me by many of my Goodreads friends, I had to read this one immediately- and I’m so glad I did!

This crime novel is fittingly dedicated to Charles Willeford and Elmore Leonard. The tribute is both subtle and obvious.


This is a well-crafted crime novel, which is to be expected from a seasoned author who has built a solid reputation writing mystery/ thrillers- of course, he is just as respected for his television manuscripts.

This story, however, almost becomes philosophical, giving the reader a lot more to ponder on than the mystery and various criminal vignettes acted out by this exquisitely flawed cast of characters.

Book lovers and fans of literary fiction will drool over the storyline involving Anna, who works at the jail in the book group program, and Michael, a prisoner upon which she, and her book recommendations have an enormous impact.

Michael’s jail term is significantly reduced, and he is released after a PI named Phil Ornazian does a little wheeling and dealing on his behalf. Phil’s motives aren’t exactly pure, however. As it happens, our PI, and family man, Phil, has a lucrative side business, where he robs pimps and other criminals of their ill-gotten gains.

Phil, along with his sidekick, Thaddeus Ward, are hired to discover who robbed a wealthy family and violated their teenage daughter while they were away on vacation. Phil, who obviously plays loose and fast with the law, all but blackmails Michael, who is determined to play it straight and get his life in order, into driving a getaway car for him.

Meanwhile, Michael and Anna, who is married, meet by chance, rekindling their friendship, sharing more book recommendations and flirting with an illicit attraction to one another.

While there is a gritty crime drama, a mystery to solve, a fair amount of action, and few nail- biting moments in the story, what stands out the most are the characterizations. Is one crime worse than the other? After repeated failures, has Michael finally put his criminal escapades behind him? How has Anna’s influence on him and his newly acquired love of literature influenced him? Will Anna pursue something beyond friendship with Michael, or will she remain loyal to her husband?

I loved this book! I didn’t go into it with extra high expectations, thinking of it only in terms of crime fiction. What I got was something far more in depth and redeeming. It’s a homage to books and literature, it’s a deep character analysis, and a piece of literary fiction, disguised as a mystery-thriller. It’s stylish and sleek, deep and thoughtful, and felt honest and real. The only complaint I have is that it was over far too soon!!



GET A COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Came-Uptown-ebook/dp/B078W6FW98/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-man-who-came-uptown-george-pelecanos/1127785024


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




George Pelecanos was born in Washington, D.C. in 1957. He worked as a line cook, dishwasher, bartender, and woman's shoe salesman before publishing his first novel in 1992.

Pelecanos is the author of eighteen novels set in and around Washington, D.C.: A Firing Offense, Nick's Trip, Shoedog, Down By the River Where the Dead Men Go, The Big Blowdown, King Suckerman, The Sweet Forever, Shame the Devil, Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, Soul Circus, Hard Revolution, Drama City, The Night Gardener, The Turnaround, The Way Home, The Cut, and What It Was. He has been the recipient of the Raymond Chandler award in Italy, the Falcon award in Japan, and the Grand Prix Du Roman Noir in France. Hell to Pay and Soul Circus were awarded the 2003 and 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. His short fiction has appeared in Esquire, Playboy, and the collectionsUnusual Suspects, Best American Mystery Stories of 1997, Measures of Poison, Best American Mystery Stories of 2002, Men From Boys, and Murder at the Foul Line. He served as editor on the collections D.C. Noir and D.C. Noir 2: The Classics, as well as The Best Mystery Stories of 2008. He is an award-winning essayist who has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, Sight and Sound, Uncut, Mojo, and numerous other publications. Esquire magazine called him "the poet laureate of the D.C. crime world." In Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King wrote that Pelecanos is "perhaps the greatest living American crime writer." Pelecanos would like to note that Mr. King used the qualifier "perhaps." 

Pelecanos served as producer on the feature films Caught (Robert M. Young, 1996), Whatever (Susan Skoog, 1998) andBlackMale (George and Mike Baluzy, 1999), and was the U.S. distributor of John Woo's cult classic, The Killer and Richard Bugajski's Interrogation. Most recently, he was a producer, writer, and story editor for the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, The Wire, winner of the Peabody Award and the AFI Award. He was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on that show. He was a writer and co-producer on the World War II miniseries The Pacific, and is currently at work as an executive producer and writer on David Simon's HBO dramatic series Treme, shot in New Orleans.

Pelecanos lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland.


MANGA MONDAY- Lover's Touch by by Juri Nakao (Illustrator), Penny Jordan - Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Eleanor de Tressail lost her father and grandfather in quick succession, and now she’s racking her brain trying to figure out how to pay the inheritance tax on the estate and all the property that was bequeathed to her. She promised her grandfather that she wouldn’t lose the home that the family has lived in for generations, but her stepsister, Grania, believes they should sell the house and split the money equally. At that moment Joss, the trustee of their finances, appears and proposes marriage to Eleanor. In exchange for the de Tressail family title, he’ll take care of all her financial problems. But she can’t marry someone who doesn’t love hereven if she loves him!


MY REVIEW:
Lover's TouchLover's Touch by Juri Nakao
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lover’s Touch by Juri Nakao, ( Illustrator), Penny Jordan is a 2017 Harlequin/ SB Creative publication.

Eleanor de Tressail gets saddled with an enormous estate tax after her father and grandfather pass away. While she is trying figure out a way to keep the estate in the family and pay the taxes, her shallow step-sister is pressuring her to sell the property and split the proceeds.

However, the trustee of their finances, Joss, shows up and offers Eleanor a most unusual solution to her dilemma- a marriage of convenience!

Joss and Eleanor have a complicated past. Eleanor loves Joss, but is positive he could never return her feelings.

This short story is based on the Harlequin novel published by the late Penny Jordon back in 1989. The story is slightly rushed, but I thought the Manga version did the original story justice and as always, the illustrations are top notch.

I love the theme in this book, as the good looking, wealthy man appreciates Eleanor for who she is, loving her, whether she has her glam on, or if she is dressed casually, seeing her inner beauty and depth, which is always a nice concept and a lovely message.

Penny was a big favorite of mine way back in the day, so it is so lovely to see some of her books enjoyed once again in such an imaginative and visual format.

GRAB YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071L9N435/

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Penny_Jordan_LOVERS_TOUCH

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


By her early twenties, Jordan was writing for herself, but her writing career began in earnest when she was 30, encouraged and supported by her husband. He bought her, at a time when he could ill afford it, the small electric typewriter on which she typed her first books. She entered a competition run by the Romantic Novelists' Association. Although she did not win, an agent looking for a new-style Georgette Heyer, contacted the R.N.A.
In March 1979, she published her first novel under the pseudonym Caroline Courtney, Duchess in Disguise, the same year she published 4 other books. Under this pen-name she published 25 Regency romances until 1986. From 1981–83, she signed 3 air-hostess romps as Melinda Wright and 2 thrillers as Lydia Hitchcock, published by Columbine House.  In 1981, Mills & Boon accepted her first novel for them, Falcon's Prey, signed as Penny Jordan. Since then, almost 70 million copies of her 167 Mills & Boon (or Harlequin) novels have been sold worldwide.

Jordan died of cancer on 31 December 2011, aged 65.

Friday, March 22, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- A Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Artist EBEN ADAMS has never been able to impress influential art dealer HENRY MATTHEWS with his work until he sketches a schoolgirl in Central Park named JENNIE. Eben is intrigued by her mystical quality and the way she chats about things that happened long before her time. When he sketches Jennie, the drawing conveys more emotion than anything else he has ever done, but before he can finish, Jennie vanishes. Eben searches for Jennie, and when he finds her, he notices a startling transformation . she has aged several years since their first meeting. Eben soon realizes that Jennie has long been dead and that she is a beautiful spirit who means more to him than life itself. Over the next several days, Eben paints Jennie's portrait, knowing that when he finishes, Jennie will disappear again. His foretelling comes true. Disheartened, Eben searches in vain for his timeless beloved and eventually finds comfort in the notion that true love has no boundaries between time and space. He, Jennie, and the world are one.





READ AN EXCERPT:









Portrait of JenniePortrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan was originally published in 1940.

I read this book several times when I was a teenager. Over the years, however, I completely forgot about it- until I saw it pop up on my Goodreads feed a little while back. I knew right away I wanted to re-read this one, but finding a copy of this book is very difficult. My library had an audio version, but I was hoping they would have a physical copy or at least a digital copy on Overdrive- but I was out of luck on that front and eBay- Oy! Too rich for my blood. Finally, I gave up and settled for the Kindle edition, which is only 99 cents.

(*Note:  It has just come to my attention, that, for some reason, this title is no longer unavailable in the Kindle store- will update purchase links, if and when they become available. However, as of this writing, it is available at Barnes & Noble- for the Nook- or with the Nook App for 99 cents and on KOBO- via Wal Mart e books) 

I wondered if maybe I had mythologized this book. I seem to remember the deep impression the story had on me, more than any specific details of it, if that makes any sense. I was worried it might be one of those books that once I read it as an adult, it would fail to impact me in the same way it did when I was younger.

Well, I needn’t have worried about that. As a teenager, drawn to fantasy and the supernatural, this book would have appealed to me due to the prominence of those elements. But, as an adult, I realize the palpable loneliness, the longing, and the tragedy of the story, as well as the bittersweet and tender love story is what is really at the heart of the story.

The Past isn’t behind us… it’s all around us-

I love this story more than ever! It’s a short story- novella size in length, but wow! It really packs a powerful punch. It’s a so well written, so mysterious, and melancholy. The fantasy elements are really left up to the reader to decipher as they see fit, as no pat answers are given. This only adds to the book's legend, I think, as everyone seems to have a different opinion.

Personally, I lean, not towards the time travel, but a 'time slip' scenario, myself. That’s a fine line, I know, but time slip adds more of a supernatural tone, I think. Either way, Eben Adams will hold Jeannie's memory in his heart, which is the most important thing, no matter which theory you choose to embrace. (I'd love to hear your opinion!)

There is a movie, most people are familiar with, starring Joseph Cotten, but amazingly enough, I have never seen it. Some people really love it, but many believe the book is much better and my understanding is that some liberties were taken especially with the conclusion, so I think I’ll continue to steer clear of the movie. However, if you are interested, you can probably find it on YouTube.



GET YOUR COPY HERE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR




Nathan was born into a prominent New York Sephardic family. He was educated in the United States and Switzerland and attended Harvard University for several years beginning in 1912. It was there that he began writing short fiction and poetry. However, he never graduated, choosing instead to drop out and take a job at an advertising firm to support his family (he married while a junior at Harvard). It was while working in 1919 that he wrote his first novel—the semi-autobiographical work Peter Kindred—which was a critical failure. But his luck soon changed during the 1920s, when he wrote seven more novels, including The Bishop's Wife, which was later made into a successful film starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Nanny Clause- by Karen Rose Smith- Feature and Review




ABOUT THE BOOK:


Three kids. One pregnant cat. And one perfect nanny... When Daniel Sutton's daughters rescue an abandoned calico, the hardworking attorney doesn't expect to be sharing his home with a litter of newborns! And the adorable kittens aren't his only houseguests. Animal shelter volunteer Emma Alvarez is transforming the lives of Daniel and his three girls. The first-time nanny is a natural with kids and pets. Will that extend to a single father ready to trust in love again?


MY REVIEW:


The Nanny ClauseThe Nanny Clause by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Nanny Clause by Karen Rose Smith is a 2019 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

A lovely story about how three adorable little girls and a pregnant cat brought two people together to create one big happy family-‘Fur-ever’!!

When Pippa, Penny, and Paris find a pregnant cat, their father, Dan Sutton, takes her to an animal shelter. There, they meet a shelter volunteer named Emma Alvarez. As a single father with a demanding career, Dan doesn’t think he can take on the responsibility of a caring for a pet, especially one expecting a litter of kittens.

However, he and his girls do check in with Emma to see how “Fiesta” the cat is doing. As Dan and the “Three P’s’” get to know Emma, Dan sees how well the girls respond to her. So, he offers her a job as their Nanny and she accepts the position. There are a few misunderstandings, and the girls are still coping with the way their mother left them, but things are working out very well…

Well, except that Dan and Emma are finding it hard not to give in to their mutual attraction to one another!

The cover of this book caught my attention right away! A basket full of kittens!! I love books that spotlight rescue pets in the story, so I had a good feeling about this book right from the start. The children featured in the story are also a big part of why the book is so sweet- and aren’t their names adorable??

But with all the pets, kids, and family dramas, it might sound like Emma and Dan would have a hard time finding sexy time, but the chemistry between them is just right and their feelings and sensuality develop in a healthy way.

The story is quite charming, and I was really enjoying the progress the family was making when – uh oh! A surprise twist came along- and it was a doozy!!

Can Emma and Dan accept these new developments and put old hurts behind them, or will circumstances force them to take a different path?

This is a gentle, heartwarming story, the kind that is good for your mind and heart, reminding us that in an imperfect world, love can provide the strength to forgive, and can find a way to heal broken hearts, bringing people together who are a purr-fect fit.

And….

There are cats!!






Enough said!



https://www.amazon.com/Nanny-Clause-Furever-Yours/dp/1335573801/ref

Kindle Format available for pre-order. Release day- April 1, 2019

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nanny-clause-karen-rose-smith/1129486551

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Karen is well-known for writing emotion-packed novels. An only child, she spent a lot of time in her imagination and with books--Nancy Drew, Zane Gray, The Black Stallion and Anne of Green Gables. She dreamt of brothers and sisters and a big family like her mother and father came from--seven children in her mom's family and ten in her dad's. On weekends she was often surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. This is the root of her plotlines that include small communities and family relationships as integral to everyday living. She believes universal emotions unite us all and that is the reason she employs them to propel her plots.


Contact her through her website www.karenrosesmith.com or KarenRoseSmithMysteries.com if you'd like to belong to her street team or her readers group on Facebook. She welcomes interaction with her readers on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to chat about plotlines, titles, emotions, heroes, heroines, music, books, gardening, cooking, or anything else readers deem noteworthy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup- by John Carreyrou- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.

For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company's value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:








MY REVIEW:


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou is a 2018 Knopf Publishing Group publication.


‘Super high turnover rate means you’re never bored at work.
Also good if you’re an introvert because each shift is short-staffed. Especially if you’re swing or graveyard. You essentially don’t exist to the company.
Why be bothered with lab coats and safety goggles? You don’t need to use PPE at all. Who cares if you catch something like HIV or Syphilis? This company sure doesn’t!!
Brown nosing, or having a brown nose, will get you far.
How to make money at Theranos:
1. Lie to venture capitalists
2. Lie to doctors, patients, FDA, CDC, government. While also committing highly unethical and immoral (and possibly illegal) acts.


This is the story of Elizabeth Holmes’ meteoric rise and her swift and spectacular fall from grace-

I didn’t closely follow this case in the same way I do some true crime stories, but I did keep up with it enough to get the gist of what had transpired, who some of the players were, and why the company was sued. So, when I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I had to know all the details, the how, when, where, and why because it was just such a bizarre situation.






However, after I read this book, I sat back in complete shock. Sometimes, I just could not believe what I was reading!! I also couldn’t believe all the names that popped up in this book!! Before anyone starts pointing fingers at one side of the other, people from all political stripes were misled by the charismatic Holmes. These people are supposed to be the best and the brightest, but frankly, every one of them left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

For those who many not have kept up with the news stories-

Elizabeth Holmes, barely out of her teens, was behind a Silicon Valley startup called Theranos. The company claimed to have invented a device that could take a very small amount a blood, usually from a single finger prick, and perform as many as eight hundred different tests on it, often promising instant results or diagnosis. The demonstrations showed mixed results, so to be sure the results wowed the potential investor, the tests were often rigged. Any unfavorable statistics were simply tossed out or ignored. The device and its potential capabilities were pitched to Safeway, Walgreens, and even the Military. Elizabeth’s magnetic personality was enthralling, and she had a way of convincing people to do what she wanted them to, persuading even the most skeptical to put their faith and trust in her.








However, multitudes of her employees found out the hard way, what might happen if they challenged her, or her Svengali -like lover Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani.






Many people were disturbed by the false claims Elizabeth made and were very concerned about the false positive results the blood tests produced on real patients. Employees at the company dropped like flies. Eventually, one employee, Tyler Shultz, grandson of former secretary of state, George Shultz, became a whistleblower, bringing down a nine -billion -dollar operation in the process.



This story is utterly chilling, and mind boggling. I marveled at the gullibility of people we entrust our lives to, not only at the base level of health care, but at high levels of the government and the military. I’d have thought some of the people were smarter than that. Apparently not.

Look, even someone like me, from Podunk, Texas, would know better than to take a medical claim such as this one at face value. I wouldn’t invest in it, promote it, or test it on patients until the thing had been approved by the FDA or whoever else had to put the seal of approval on it. I damn sure wouldn’t allow our military to be subjected to something so unreliable. Good God! Is common sense dead in the water? It just seemed too far-fetched to me and I really struggled to believe so many wealthy and even powerful people fell under Holmes’ spell so completely.

Which of course brings us to the core issue: At the center of all this is Elizabeth Holmes- a greedy sociopath, a megalomaniac- or whatever word you want to use. This woman’s behavior is unconscionable!! She really should be behind bars!!

This is a crazy story, just nuts!! You will have to read it to believe it.

Now, as far an investigative or true crime book goes- this one is above average, especially give the journalistic background of the author. At times all the medical testing and lab jargon was a bit dry, and sometimes the information or patterns of all the players felt repetitive. The organization of the material was well done, but not as tight as I would have liked. Still, I am thankful the author pursued this story for the WSJ, writing an article which helped to bring down this dangerous company before any truly horrific damage was done!!

Theranos ceased operations in August of 2018- Thank God!

Holmes and Balwani face up to twenty years in prison-


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Blood-Secrets-Silicon-Startup-ebook/dp/B078VW3VM7/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bad-blood-john-carreyrou/1128112184


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ohn Carreyrou is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a nonfiction author. His first book, "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup," chronicles Silicon Valley's biggest fraud.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield - Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:






MY REVIEW:


Once Upon a RiverOnce Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a 2019 Atria/Emily Bestler Books publication.

A deeply mysterious, hypnotic and fantastical Gothic yarn!

Nearly a century ago, on Winter Solstice, folks assembled together at ‘The Swan at Radcot’, a local inn, where they plan to spend the evening swapping stories. But, suddenly, a stranger comes staggering in, half drowned, carrying a young girl, who appears deceased. However, when the local nurse is called to the scene, she discovers the child is breathing- appearing to have miraculously returned from the dead!!

The man who rescued the child has no idea who she is. While the girl remains mute, she is claimed by three different people or families. One woman dubiously claims the girl is her sister, while another couple, devastated by the kidnapping of their only daughter, is positive the child is theirs, and yet another couple is convinced the girl is their grandchild, the daughter of their ne’er do well son.

While the base foundation is built up around the mystery of the Lazarus child, there are several separate threads embedded within the main story.

Each character carries a burden, a secret, or extreme guilt, but they also carry hope and the wish to keep the child away from any harm, refusing to become combatant with the others who wish to claim her.

The author weaves magical realism into the mysterious tale seamlessly, creating an exquisite Gothic atmosphere so thick you can slice it. This book is perfectly suited to my taste in Gothic fiction. I loved the mystery, the allegory, and the combinations of various historical and Gothic styles the author employs, which pays homage to a few literary greats.

In many ways, this novel is an ode to storytelling, because the art of verbal storytelling, is at the core upon which the book is based. The residents who gather at ‘The Swan’ and their stories, are referenced often.

Even the title, borrows from the age old ‘Once Upon a Time’ which precedes a great many stories which have been passed down for centuries. These tales, legends and myths, folklore and fairytales, can challenge the imagination, and nurture creativity, as well as pass along a few lessons, encouraging one to exercise a little critical thinking, as well.

This absorbing tale slowly lures the reader into its web, moving at a languid pace, bringing various threads together a little at a time, while providing what might be best described as vignettes within the base of the story, which keeps the reader invested, while adding depth, character, and emotions into the mix, leaving one transfixed by the all the implications and developments, the imagery, whimsy and reflection.

This story does have a large cast of characters, does meander a bit, and is very dense, which did require a sharper focus on my part. Ironically, though, the large cast, and the intricacy of the plot, which I normally struggle with, was an asset and not a hindrance, in this case.

However, one may need to exercise a little patience, in the beginning, and I might also suggest unplugging for a while, to fully absorb the rich textures and layers of the story. Savor this one slowly when you can give it your undivided attention.

You’ll soon find yourself lost in another time and place, so far removed from the ordinary you’ll be reluctant to leave the cocoon the story has wrapped you up in. That is what a good story should do-

If you follow my reviews, then you know I love Gothic tales- so of course, I was easily drawn into this unique story, and relished every second of it! For those who aren’t into Gothic stories as much as I am, this one might challenge you a bit. But, if you stick with it, you may discover, that while it might be an acquired a taste, once you’ve been bitten by the bug you'll be a fan for life.


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-River-Diane-Setterfield-ebook/dp/B07D2ZZK6N/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/once-upon-a-river-diane-setterfield/1128688073


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her second novel, Bellman & Black (2013 is a genre-defying tale of rooks and Victorian retail. January 2019 sees the publication of her new title, Once Upon a River, which has been called 'bewitching' and 'enchanting'. 

Diane Setterfield has been published in over forty countries.

Diane lives in Oxford, in the UK. When not writing she reads widely, and when not actually reading she is usually talking or thinking about reading. She is, she says, ‘a reader first, a writer second.’

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Place For Us- by Fatima Farheen Mirza - Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding - a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son's estrangement - the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:




MY REVIEW:

A Place for UsA Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a 2018 SJP for Hogarth publication.

The incredible amount of time I waited to read this book was worth it. This book is everything my peers said it would be. What can I add, at this stage, which hasn’t already been said, and far more eloquently than I? A formidable task, but I couldn't leave all these powerful emotions bottled up inside, needing to express some of my own personal thoughts on it.


I’m a big fan of family sagas, and no matter which way you slice it, this book falls into that category. However, this is also a story about the struggle for individuality within the family unit. It’s about generational divides, traditions, religious customs, and rigid expectations, which tilts the dynamics, especially between father and son.

These themes, (despite the added elements of cultural and religious diversity, and the examination of gender roles within the family unit, which certainly makes this story a unique experience for most readers), are not necessarily new. Any parent, any child, any family, with similarities, such as disciplinarian parenting, often coupled with deep religious fervor, could relate to this family, at least to some extent.

While Layla and Rafiq are in an arranged marriage, and their faith is important to them, their children often question the answers, perhaps in a way their parents never dared.

But, invariably, there is at least one child who rebels, who feels stifled or repressed, who challenges with a sense of pride and stubbornness, the principles and expectations the family imparts upon them. In this case, Amar and his father Rafiq, clash in such a harsh and heartbreaking manner, leaving the reader feeling bereft, with a keen sense of loss, for what might have been, what could have been...

If only people had the benefit of hindsight, if only our mistakes could be taken back, if we could have a do over, knowing exactly where things went awry, if only blame was placed where it should be placed, if only we were not all flawed humans - if only this were a perfect world.

As the tragic events unfold, the characters each come into their own, confessing horrible secrets, admitting complicity, guilt, blame, and expressing overwhelming regret.

This is family. This is parenting. This is life. There is pain, there is progress, there is forgiveness, there is hope- and 'a place for us'.

This novel is eloquently written, so fresh, so raw and emotional, and so very real. This is not a flashy story, sidestepping pretentiousness, while replacing it with a beautiful, understated quality, which is quite effective.

It is this sense of realism, the feeling of being, not on the outside looking in, but of being present, in the moment, right there with the characters, as the story unfolds, that held me firmly in its grip.

I was far more in tune, listening to the silence, carefully watching, and waiting with bated breath to see how events would unfold. As the conclusion draws near and the second person narrative of Rafiq begins, the silence is finally heard.

These passages nearly ripped my heart out. If this were a movie, showing in a crowded theatre, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.

I’m not normally swayed by celebrity book clubs or in this case, imprints, but SJP picked a winner with this one. A very impressive debut for Fatima Farheen Mirza, for sure. I feel she is light years ahead of many of her contemporaries and can envision a very bright future for her in literary land.




https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-place-for-us-fatima-farheen-mirza/1127396496




Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

Friday, March 15, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Shiver by Lisa Jackson- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Crimes Are Unthinkable



A serial killer is turning the Big Easy into his personal playground. The victims are killed in pairs--no connection, no apparent motive, no real clues. It's a very sick game, and it's only just begun.

The Fear Is Real

Abby Chastain left New Orleans long ago and for good reason. Now she's back where she feels watched, as if the devil himself is scraping a fingernail along her spine. It doesn't help that Detective Reuben Montoya is convinced she's somehow the key to unlocking these horrible crimes--a mystery that has something to do with Our Lady of Virtues Mental Hospital, a decaying old asylum where unspeakable crimes were once committed, and a human predator may still wait.

The Truth Is Deadly

As more bodies are found in gruesome, staged scenarios, Montoya and Abby are in a desperate race to stop a killer whose terrifying crimes are bringing them ever nearer to a shocking revelation. For the past is never completely gone. Its sins must be avenged. And a twisted psychopath is getting close enough to make them. . .


READ AN EXCERPT:



MY REVIEW: 



Shiver (New Orleans, #3)Shiver by Lisa Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This story gets off to a quick start and stays on track from start to finish-

After her divorce, Abby makes plans to move from New Orleans to California.  She's gone so far as to put her home on the market. But, then her ex husband is murdered and Abby becomes a person of interest, which is where she is introduced to Detective Montoya.

Montoya keeps a cool distance from Abby, despite his attraction to her, due to ethical reasons, but when he begins to suspect she could be in danger, he doesn't hesitate to get involved.

Somehow, the murders are connected to an old mental institution where Abby's mother died. Abby is haunted by nightmares of her mother's shocking death, sensing something 'off' about her memories of that day.

As the bodies continue to pile up, Montoya becomes desperate to find the key to the murders and the possible connection to the mental institution, and to keep Abby from becoming the next victim.

This story is written in such a way it is impossible to try and figure out 'whodunit'. Therefore this book, while it is a mystery, could also be categorized as a thriller, psychological thriller, or romantic suspense.
The author kept me interested, engaged, and guessing to the very end. The romantic elements are a little stiff and hurried, but the main focus is on the crime and suspense.

While this book wraps everything up nicely, there is a follow-up that might tie up some lingering questions involving Abby's mother.

Lisa Jackson has a nice back list of titles, and although this one of her older books, it also one of better effort, and stands the test of time admirably.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Shiver-Bentz-Reuben-Montoya-Novel-ebook/dp/B0037TPMRW/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shiver-lisa-jackson/1100193913

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




#1 NYT and USA TODAY bestselling author Lisa Jackson started writing after her sister read an article in TIME Magazine in 1981 about how young mothers were making money writing romance novels. Both Lisa and her sister, Nancy Bush, began their writing careers right then, and lo, these many years later, Lisa has published seventy-five plus novels and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag - Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:


In this breathtakingly bold, intricately constructed novel set in 18th century Stockholm, a dying man searches among the city’s teeming streets, dark corners, and intriguing inhabitants to unmask a ruthless murderer—perfect for fans of Perfume and The Alienist.

It is 1793. Four years after the storming of the Bastille in France and more than a year after the death of King Gustav III of Sweden, paranoia and whispered conspiracies are Stockholm’s daily bread. A promise of violence crackles in the air as ordinary citizens feel increasingly vulnerable to the whims of those in power.

When Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-solider and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s malodorous lake, he feels compelled to give the unidentifiable man a proper burial. For Cecil Winge, a brilliant lawyer turned consulting detective to the Stockholm police, a body with no arms, legs, or eyes is a formidable puzzle and one last chance to set things right before he loses his battle to consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell scour Stockholm to discover the body’s identity, encountering the sordid underbelly of the city’s elite. Meanwhile, Kristofer Blix—the handsome son of a farmer—leaves rural life for the alluring charms of the capital and ambitions of becoming a doctor. His letters to his sister chronicle his wild good times and terrible misfortunes, which lead him down a treacherous path.

In another corner of the city, a young woman—Anna-Stina—is consigned to the workhouse after she upsets her parish priest. Her unlikely escape plan takes on new urgency when a sadistic guard marks her as his next victim.

Over the course of the novel, these extraordinary characters cross paths and collide in shocking and unforgettable ways. Niklas Natt och Dag paints a deliciously dark portrait of late 18th century Stockholm, and the frightful yet fascinating reality lurking behind the powdered and painted veneer of the era.




LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:








MY REVIEW:


The Wolf and the WatchmanThe Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wolf and the Watchman is a 2019 Atria Books publication.

Morose and grisly- but morbidly fascinating!

Late 1700s- Stockholm-

A mutilated corpse is found in the lake- and by mutilated, I mean limbs, tongue, and eyes had been methodically removed, one at a time, the work mimicking that of a surgeon.

Cecil Winge, a lawyer, suffering through the last stages of consumption has been asked to look into the matter, which is the only thing that keeps him on his feet, fighting to stay alive long enough to solve the mystery.

Winge teams up with Mickel Cardell, a disabled former soldier, who discovered, then fished the body out of the water. Together they work to officially identify the body and discover who murdered the man in such a gruesome manner.

This novel has generated a bit of publicity, and as such, has already garnered a bit of a reputation- clueing me in on its violent nature. However, I was still unprepared for the lurid content I encountered in this story!! So, even if one has a high tolerance for graphic violence and gore, this novel will test your limits and boundaries. So- consider yourself warned.

The plot is intricate, and very absorbing, with several interesting character studies rounding things out. The dark and macabre underbelly of Stockholm provides an unsettling and nerve-wracking atmosphere which never allowed one to relax or exhale, even for a moment. There is also an urgency to the solving the crime as Winge’s health progressively worsens, adding an even heavier quality to an already depressingly grim tale.

Although there are very few rays of light in this dreary mystery/thriller, the sun does break through the clouds from time to time, offering some modicum of relief, but not for very long. I needed a respite from this one a time or two, but did find the story very compelling, with moments of real brilliance, although, the grit still overshadowed the finer nuances.

I can see why this book has captured the attention of its publisher, and why they hope a marketing push will steer it into the mainstream. But, despite the impressiveness of it, I’m not sure it’s ready for prime time, which is an audience trained to absorb bland, contained, polished, and watered down content. I'm not convinced this novel is suited for mass consumption.

Perhaps it would work better with a cult following, which is a far more intriguing, enduring, and even flattering thought, appealing to a specific audience capable of giving it the credit it is due…. Without feeling a little blue or green around the gills.


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Watchman-Niklas-Natt-och-ebook/dp/B07GNT9TWM/


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-wolf-and-the-watchman-niklas-natt-och-dag/1128916503


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Niklas Natt och Dag (“Night and Day”) debuted as an author with the historical literary novel 1793. Natt och Dag himself has an undeniable connection to Swedish history, being a member of the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden. When he isn’t writing or reading, Natt och Dag enjoys playing the guitar, mandolin, violin, or the Japanese bamboo flute, shakuhachi.

Niklas Natt och Dag lives in Stockholm with his wife and their two sons.